SUNDRE, ALTA. — Residents in Sundre protested the firing of Fire Chief Marty Butts outside the town office on Tuesday.
“What happened to him shouldn’t have happened,” said area resident Brad Billings.
Butts was let go by the town after spending 10 years as fire chief, and 34 years with the volunteer department. He says town officials fired him because of alleged bullying ongoing at the fire hall.
“I’m a bully, I’m using my powers of authority against people? Are you kidding me,” said Butts.
“You voice your opinion, and I’m old school, and in today’s day an age you have to watch what you say.”
Butts says as chief he had to make a tough decision earlier this year by sending one firefighter on a six month leave of absence. Citing personal reasons, Butts says that individual would have been allowed to return after the absence was completed.
Firefighter Cody McAllister, who worked alongside Butts, says there is no bullying that takes place in the hall.
“There’s common tomfoolery I guess you could say, but that’s everywhere,” said McAllister.
Butts also says the town office has not answered any calls when it comes to help for resources.
About 80 residents and firefighters showed up in solidarity with Butts on Tuesday.
“Five years ago my son was in an accident and if it wasn’t for the Sundre fire department he would have died,” said resident Danielle Mallinson.
Some firefighters CTV News spoke with say they were locked out of the fire hall on Monday when preparing to go on a call for a motor vehicle incident.
They say the locks were changed.
The mayor confirmed that, saying any dismissal of a town employee means locks are always changed.
“I feel that there is a change taking place that has some controversy to it, obviously,” said Mayor Terry Leslie.
Residents feel with many colleagues standing with Butts in his dismissal, there is not a fully functional fire hall.
“The town has endeavoured with Mountain View County to try and make sure fire protection services in the community will be uninterrupted,” said Leslie.
The town issued a statement, reading in part, “malicious rumours circulated in the community alleging the Sundre Fire Department had been locked out, leaving the town without adequate fire protection. These rumours are categorically false.”
The mayor says the locks were changed, and new pin codes were given to the deputy chief.
“There are firefighters that it’s on the horns of a dilemma trying to determine whether they’re absolute commitment to the community and their commitment to fire chief Butts, causes them some struggle,” said Leslie.
Behr firefighters have been asked by the town to come and assist local firefighters through the transition.
There’s no word on a replacement, or a timeline on when a new chief would be instated.
For Butts he says he wouldn’t say no, if he was offered his job back, but only under certain conditions.
“There has to be a lot of damn things change in this (town) office,” said Butts.